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Cultivating an Herbal Medicine Cabinet

by Dawn Combs

Cultivating HeaderMany of us are growing more concerned every day about over-the-counter medicines. As we become suspicious of the long list of chemical names present on simple things like our child’s cough syrup, the natural products industry is seeing a resultant surge in sales.

There are a number of must-have salves and sprays that are found in the local natural foods store, but how many people know that their backyard is an important extension of the all-natural medicine cabinet? On our farm, we grow plants specifically for ongoing health needs and we use many of the weeds we find as well. During the summer, we then harvest all these amazing plants fresh and as needed. Here are a few of my favorites:

PlantainPlantain (Plantago major or lanceolata) Plantain is one of the most common weeds on the planet. It can be used as a quick poultice for an insect bite or sting, to stop bleeding, to pull out a splinter or even treat an infection. I like knowing that if I am on a playground and one of my children falls and scrapes off some skin, it is a safe bet that I can find a few plantain leaves, chew them a bit, and apply the paste to the wound for relief. I have even used the long thin leaves of Plantago lanceolata, tied in a knot around a finger, for an impromptu bandage.


ComfreyComfrey (Symphytum spp.) Comfrey is one of my favorite plants and is known as a “skin knitter” because it has the ability to heal wounds quickly. I really love comfrey for bruising and rashes. While it can be applied just like plantain, I really like it as a compress (applying a cloth that has been soaked in a tea) or as an herbal bath soak.


DillDill (Anethum graveolens) Dill, fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and anise (Pimpinella anisum) are all seeds that are high in volatile oils. These natural wonders make over-the-counter solutions for acid indigestion seem ineffective by comparison. Chewing a few seeds after a big meal provides quick and lasting relief from heartburn.


SageSage (Salvia officinalis) Sage is often dismissed as merely a culinary herb but this is far from the truth. Sage is the best remedy for a sore throat and is great first aid for a hot flash; it has even shown promise in clinical studies for improved memory in Alzheimer patients.


RosemaryRosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) Rosemary is not just great for chicken; it is also a supreme pain killer and anti-inflammatory. It is just as good as aspirin for a headache and makes a delicious tea to boot! This is a common additive to homemade hair care products and can be effective for itchy, flaky scalp and thinning hair.


GarlicGarlic (Allium sativum) Garlic is antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal. It is an important plant to have around for cold and flu season and is just the thing infused into an oil for an ear infection.



Take a closer look around the yard. Now is the time to start building an all-natural medicine cabinet.

Dawn Combs co-runs Mockingbird Meadows, a holistic honey and herb farm in Marysville. For more information, visit

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